For reasons that can only be partisan, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem signed his name to a frivolous lawsuit to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Though the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rejected the case late Friday night, the mere attempt will have long-lasting impacts on future elections. Was it worth it Wayne?

With the stroke of a pen, Wayne Stenehjem deeply damaged his reputation. In doing so, he discredited his independence and made many question not only his judgment, but his approach to the job. Stenehjem claimed – without proof – he received “thousands of calls” pleading with him to join the lawsuit to overturn the presidential election and disenfranchise millions of voters. It begs the question if he – as an attorney and our state’s highest law enforcement official – administers other legal judgments based on the number of phone calls, texts, emails, or fear of a tweet. This is American democracy, not America’s Got Talent.

“Thousands of phone calls” and no cost to taxpayers? Let’s take that claim for a walk. Who answered those phone calls in the AG’s office? Who examined the Texas brief and drafted the legal documents in our state’s name? Was the work volunteered? Was it outsourced? If so, who paid if not the state? The Texas lawsuit wasn’t lingering in the public domain very long before Stenehjem signed up for “thousands of phone calls” to appear overnight. Who coordinated the “calls?” Or, was it all a lie in an attempt to justify joining an attack on American democracy and our election processes?

The conservative-leaning Supreme Court didn’t even give the Republican Attorneys General a pat on the head. There was no redeeming piece in their rejection. In fact, it was clear they wanted none of it. There was nothing beneficial to Stenehjem, our state, and our democracy. Although others are throwing around the allegation of sedition on the Attorneys General who joined the Texas lawsuit, there will likely be no political cost for Stenehjem. The cost is entirely on the confidence and integrity of our institutions. This again begs the question, was it worth it Wayne?

The thing is, it wasn’t just Wayne Stenehjem’s name he signed. It was our name. North Dakota will forever be placed alongside the sixteen other states in history books as attempting to overturn a free and fair election. No boilerplate statement from Stenehjem after a court loss will ever overturn that reality. Regardless of cost to taxpayers, what was the cost to our reputation? If Stenejhem cannot provide answers to these questions, he should resign.

Tyler Axness
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